The Ducks received a pretty good push from the Oilers, but down the stretch, they went stride for stride with the young guns, finishing with a 2-point lead in the division after Game #82, thus getting the top spot in the division and getting home-ice, when it counted.
They had a couple of divisional match-ups to start their playoff run, dispatching of the Calgary Flames in the opening round, sweeping them away in four games. Their next challenge were those guns from Edmonton, which proved to be much more of a challenge, going the distance and playing in all seven games, winning the deciding game in a narrow fashion, 2-1.
The test got extremely difficult in the Western Conference Finals, as the Nashville Predators were ready to play a physical, chippy series, going toe-to-toe with some of the playoffs best, getting down and dirty with those filthy Ducks players. The Predators were banged up, just as much as the Ducks were, but they over-matched the Ducks from the blueline back and the Ducks just had no answer, being eliminated in six games.
No matter how much people don't like the Ducks, as a team, in the hockey pool, they are selected fairly often when it comes to draft time. This year, there were 11 Ducks selected in October, one 1st round pick in John Gibson, and teams were willing to gamble on two unsigned restricted free agents, knowing how much they meant to the team. At the first swap, there was an under-performing rookie dropped for a couple of players, including a goon, while the second swap saw another Anaheim goon picked up for a scoring forward. The Ducks were active at the deadline, acquiring Patrick Eaves from the Stars and that gave them 13 players on active pool rosters by the end of the season.
Ryan Getzlaf really put the team on his shoulders this season, coming off a bit of a down year, and vaulted his way back up to 1st round status with 15 goals and 73 points in 74 games this year, good enough for 24th overall in pool scoring, 12th among all forwards. Between the regular season and the playoff run, Getzlaf has been out to show everyone that his best days are not behind him just yet.
Behind Getzlaf, it was a pretty good group of Ducks that qualified for the pool worthiness paragraph here on the post, as six more forwards made the list, including Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Patrick Eaves, Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano. The defense were no slouches, as Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson were all worthy, inside of the top 100. The goaltending duo of John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier were both in the top 30, let alone the top 50, as they split the time more evenly than most duos and were fairly successful at the same time.
What I Said Last Year, At This Time...
The star power of this Ducks team is seemingly enough to carry this team forward into the playoffs, year after year. Their top two forwards, a decent defense corps and goaltending that they can lean on from time to time, all combine together to be a pretty strong force, especially in a weaker division, like the Pacific. There's no doubt that the Ducks are in to lock up Vatanen, Lindholm and Rakell this summer, but they can sort of pick and choose what they want to do afterwards. I don't see this team throwing money away, but they'll try and find ways to improve their side with reasonably priced talent and then adjust when the season starts. The playoffs are all but certain next season, but how they dress up the depth will be what takes them to where they end up.
I don't think this was an overly difficult prediction to make for the 2017 season, but who was to think that the Ducks were going to be ousted by the Predators in the end? Injuries to their depth were what sunk the team in the end, as the acquisition of Eaves at the deadline was taken away to injury and their top players were playing hurt. The Ducks were good, but just not good enough in the end.
2018 Pool Outlook
|Corey Perry||8.625||Hampus Lindholm||5.250||John Gibson||2.300|
|Ryan Getzlaf||8.250||Sami Vatanen||4.875|
|Ryan Kesler||6.875||Cam Fowler||4.000|
|Rickard Rakell||3.800||Josh Manson||0.825|
|Antoine Vermette||1.750||Simon Despres||3.700||Angus Redmond||0.843|
|Kalle Kossila||0.925||Clayton Stoner||3.250||Dustin Tokarski||0.650|
|Max Jones||0.925||Brandon Montour||0.925|
|Kevin Roy||0.925||Jacob Larsson||0.925|
|Sam Steel||0.925||Andy Welinski||0.925|
|Jared Boll||0.900||Shea Theodore||0.863|
|Nick Ritchie||0.894||Keaton Thompson||0.795|
|Mitch Hults||0.834||Markus Pettersson||0.794|
|Jack Kopacka||0.759||Josh Mahura||0.759|
Don't let this table fool you, we already know that both Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen are not going to be ready for the start of the regular season, so the impact at the hockey pool draft may be lessened right off the hop. They aren't long-term injuries, it could be a few weeks for each, depending on their recovery, but I don't think that will have a great effect on the forwards and so on. Somewhere, the Ducks are going to have to find a little bit more help, but they should still be a popular team once again.
Potential Losses in the Expansion Draft
One no-move clause in the lineup could pose a bit of an issue, unless there is some discussion to waive with defenseman Kevin Bieksa. The Ducks would likely want to protect Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen and Cam Fowler, more so than Bieksa and they have more than four forwards they'd want to protect, so that chat might just happen. Otherwise, Fowler may be left to the Golden Knights and that would be a tough one to pass up.
Free Agency and the Salary Cap
The Ducks will have a couple of key unrestricted free agents hitting the market, barring an extension in the last month or so, as forward Patrick Eaves and goalie Jonathan Bernier are both scheduled to hit the open market and their potential salary cap situation may see to it that they do hit the market. Eaves, the most likely to leave out of the two, was more likely considered to be a rental at the deadline, regardless.
According to CapFriendly, the current iteration of the Ducks is only carrying about $2 million in cap space for a roster of 22 players and they'll still need a back-up goalie to round out the team. The 11 pool worthy players signed on for next season are already coming in at $51.6 million and one could round out the team with the non-worthy players below, within budget. I can't imagine that the Ducks will be big spenders this summer.
The Ducks system is getting stacked with good blueliners and we saw some of them already in the late part of the regular season and playoffs, but it could be a forward or two that may jump in with their rookie statuses, as ones to watch for us poolies next season. A couple of 2016 1st round picks, Max Jones and Sam Steel, may take a swing at a regular job, but in all likelihood, they'll get more time in either their last year of junior hockey. The Ducks haven't been known to rush their forwards along, but either of these two can make the jump after great junior careers.
Needs at the 2017 Entry Draft
The need for a little bit more scoring depth up front cost the Ducks their 1st round pick this year, as they dealt it to Dallas for Patrick Eaves at the deadline.
The Stars will get to choose from the 29th spot with Anaheim's pick and I truly believe that they continue down the path of looking for more blueline help. It's a desperate need, something that really needed to be addressed at the youth level, which makes me believe they'll go with Mississauga Steelheads defenseman Nicolas Hague, a good-sized defenseman, who may need some extra seasoning before making the leap up, but size is something you can't teach and it's something the Stars need on their line.
The Ducks truly got a taste of what they are going to face moving forward, within their own division. The Flames are not going to roll over and the Oilers took them to the limit, while their own key players are not getting any younger. Getzlaf still appears to be a force for the Ducks, but with the way the team plays, they are going to be susceptible to injury, which likely was the difference between having an early start to the summer and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance. The Ducks will still be in the mix for a divisional playoff spot in the Pacific next season, but the challenge for the division title may be greater than their team can muster through. Once they make the playoffs, however, it'll be hard to bet against them, since they are a team built for the Spring Dance. As long as they can get there, they'll be able to grind it out with the best of them.